By Liam Lacey
As the digit indicates, the 10th movie in Tyler Perry’s Madea franchise, Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, is a sequel to last year’s Boo! A Madea Halloween. To watch the new film is to experience a sense of unmistakable deja voodoo.
Once again, the central character is not actually Madea (Tyler Perry) of the title. It’s her nephew, a nerdy, vest-wearing and put-upon middle-aged single dad, Brian (also Tyler Perry) dealing with his wayward daughter, Tiffany (Diamond White), who wants to go to a party with a bunch of dorky frat boys.
But it’s actually a completely different movie: This time, Tiffany, has just turned 18, and this time - before everyone tries to trick everyone else and everything works out okay - the party is by a lake rather than in a frat house.
Mostly, it’s about the eventual redemption of Brian, whose wife (Taja V. Simpson) has left him for a sexier, handsomer man. At the beginning of the new film she humiliates him again by buying their daughter a car for her 18th birthday while he only bought her a pair of headphones. Also, he is forced to deal with the negative judgment and ridicule of a quartet of seniors.
Among them: his aunt, Madea, his obstreperous dad, Joe (Perry again), his Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) and a family friend, the infantile Hattie Made Love (Patrice Lovely) who’s speech impediment renders her mostly incomprehensible. When the old people stop insulting Brian, they insult each other.
Madea, in case you tuned in late to the franchise, has a colourful history. She alludes to her career “on the pole” (as a stripper, not a firefighter) and possible prostitution (wearing her heels down earning her first car). Also, her name is on a police poster for a variety of crimes.
Meanwhile, Joe, who’s obsessed with pot, brags about the string of hoes he used to keep in line, including Brian’s mother. Those proud and not-really-cute criminal histories mark the divide between Madea movies and all those rude-but-safe TV sitcoms. The characters are anarchic, and maybe actually bad.
Director Spike Lee once harshly dismissed Tyler Perry’s comedy as “coonery buffoonery” but he might want to consider similar characters in other ethnic groups. The character of Madea, for example, has a mirror image in the Irish comic Brendan O’Carroll’s foul-mouthed matriarch, Agnes Brown, who like Madea, first appeared as a stage character and says rudely honest things in an old-fashioned way. Though Mrs. Brown has been played by a woman (Anjelica Huston, in the movie, Agnes Brown), O’Connell, cross-dressing, plays her in a series of stage plays and in the hit, BBC and Republic of Ireland public TV sitcom Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
There are examples in other cultures. A former professor of mine, Magdalene Redekop, whose background is Mennonite, coined a term for this type of clown character, an “ethnic nostalgic grotesque,” which “may resist racism by embracing it.”
There’s a lot of Boo! 2 that falls flat. I could live without Uncle Joe bragging about how he used to control his hoes. The stilted youth comedy feel like everything Tyler Perry knows about teenagers he learned by watching reruns of Beach Blanket Bingo.
Worst, maybe, is when Perry’s script gets moralistic (as it always does), and Brian shows everyone he’s really an in-control dad who is respected by his condescending ex-wife and insolent daughter.
But the anarchic buffoonery, the ethnic nostalgic grotesque, is where the movie shakes its dust off, with those oversized padded bodies in their wigs and props flopping around the screen. There’s a long jittery sequence in which the four nervous old-timers drive through the woods at night in Madea’s broken-down Caddy, acting both brave and terrified by turns, which had the preview audience, including me, right in its pocket. It might even rank up there with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.
Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween. Directed, written and starring Tyler Perry, with Diamond White, Cassi Davis and Patrice Lovely. Boo! 2: A Madea Halloween shows at Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas, The CIneplex Odeon Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas and The CIneplex Odeon Queensway Cinemas.